The case for and against removing the iPad 3 Home button

Do you think Apple will phase out the iconic Home button?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Remember the press invitation Apple sent out for the upcoming March 7 media event?

It showed what appeared to be an iPad-like device featuring a retina display screen, but no physical Home button. Could Apple be getting ready to do away with that physical Home button on its iDevices? I'm going to try to make the case both for and against the removal of this physical button.

First, a reminder of the image Apple sent out:


Image credit: Apple

The case for removing the physical Home button on the iPad 3

I can come up with a number of good reasons why Apple should eliminate the physical Home button on the iPad 3:
  • A minimalist design becomes even more minimalist, giving the iPad 3 a more monolithic look and feel.
  • Removing the physical button would save space inside the device; though not such a big deal on the iPad, but it would certainly help on the iPhone.
  • A touch sensor based Home button could be customized far more than a physical button can be.
  • Removing the physical button could allow the iPad to be used in any orientation (the only feature that would dictate the ‘top' would be the camera).
  • The physical button is both a failure point, and by replacing it with a component that has no moving parts would result in a more reliable iPad.

The case against removing the physical Home button on the iPad 3

I can also come up with quite a number of good reasons why Apple should keep the physical Home button on the iPad 3:
  • It's possible to make a design too minimalist by removing features that aid usability.
  • The Home button is an iconic feature of the iPhone and iPad.
  • That Home button is handy for orienting the iPad when picking it up.
  • A physical button offers an easier target for users than a touch sensitive patch on the screen.
  • It's harder to accidentally press a physical button by than a touch sensor.
  • A physical button offers tactile feedback when it's used, giving it a positive feel.
  • I've had the touchscreen freeze on my iPad many times. How would I reboot the device without a physical button?

So, will Apple remove the physical Home button?

I've got to be honest and say I don't know. Before seeing that press invite photo I would have said no, but then a picture really is worth a thousand words. That said, photos are regularly doctored and cleaned up, so you can't take any photo you see on face value.

Maybe the Home button didn't look right in the original shot and someone airbrushed it out? Or maybe someone at Apple is just playing with us and removed the button to stir up the tech media? Another possibility - a long shot, but we should still consider it - is that the image isn't of an iPad 3 but instead of some other as yet unknown device, like a new Apple TV perhaps.

That seems like a long shot to me though.

What do you think?

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